Mr Speaker, I am sure that neither my hon. friend nor the House expect me to enter into any lengthy discussion of the very many subjects to which our attention has been called this evening. I think, however, that the House, and probably the country, did expect, after what took place last year, after the well-known and well-discussed differences of opinion which occurred between my hon. friend and the general officer commanding, that my hon. friend on his return would make, as he has made, some statement to this House in reference to his conduct ; and I am sure that we have all been very well pleased with the manner in which he has discharged that duty.
I have no doubt that the country will be interested in the statement which the hon. gentleman has made to the House this evening. I do not propose to enter into any discussion. The hon. gentleman has acquitted me as minister, and also, I understand, the government, of any intention to injure him, or of having injured him in any way. The quarrel is one between the hon. gentleman and General Hutton, and the hon. gentleman has stated his side of the case. He did, at the opening, make a reference, which he corrected later on, to the character of the papers brought down in reply to a motion for a return, during last session, and described them as incomplete and garbled. I am quite sure, from the subsequent remarks of my hon. friend, that he did not intend that as a reflection on the officers i f my department, and therefore, I have nothing to say on that point. He also took some exceptions to the publishing of private letters, but later on in his speech he disavowed any charge of impropriety against myself and the officers of my department. As a matter of fact, as the hon. gentleman has said, General Hutton did place before me the letters which were brought before the House last session, and stated that he had notified my hon. friend that he had done so, and that those letters must be considered official letters in the future. And I may say in passing, that without those letters his whole discussion would have lost a great deal of its point and interest, and would be very much like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out.
I do not know that I should say anything with reference to the long legal opinion which my hon. friend read to the House, regarding the relations which officers of superior rank in the militia bear to officers of inferior rank, or privates. I am not a law-14
yer, nor have I studied as much as I ought the military law, but I am bound to say that if the construction which my hon. friend puts upon the military law of Canada be correct, then it is very necessary that law should be changed, because it would be impossible to enforce military discipline, and our militia system would be absolutely a farce. To say that if the officer commanding a district issued an order to have the rifles and equipment of a rural battalion inspected, and the captain, who had control of the armoury, refused to allow the inspection to be made, the officer commanding was powerless to enforce the inspection, is, it seems to me, at variance with common sense, and with everything I have been taught concerning the militia in the past. However, I do not propose to discuss the matter at all, and will do my utmost to bring down every paper to which my hon. friend refers. I am not quite sure whether I can lay my hands on them all, but if he will suggest where I may find any which may be missing, I shall do my utmost to procure and lay them on the table at the earliest possible date.